California AG Charges Pro-Life Activists With 15 Felony Counts In Troubling Prosecution

We recently discussed the shocking effort by a California Democratic legislator to curtail free speech in a reckless effort to combat “fake news.”  Now the Democratic California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has brought an equally chilling criminal case against two anti-abortion activists responsible for the videotapes that triggered national protests against Planned Parenthood.  The 15 felony counts against  David Daleiden and Susan Merritt are breathtaking and even warranted a rebuke from the Los Angeles Times.  The prosecution could represent a radical shift toward prosecuting activists from environmentalists to animal right activists to pro life/pro choice protesters in their effort to record alleged abuses or violations.

While the defendants insisted that they were acting as journalists, they appear more as activists. Yet, people often applaud undercover videotapes of animal rights activists and others exposing wrongdoing or abuses.  We have discussed such cases and whether they should be treated as criminal matters.  My concern is that the response to these defendants is shaded by the embarrassment caused to Planned Parenthood.

The videotapes were heavily edited and the state law does make it a crime to  record confidential conversations without the consent of all the parties involved.  However, Becerra has brought crushing counts against these defendants in a case of obvious overkill. Indeed, even if Becerra was hellbent on bringing a felony prosecution, I fail to see why a plea to a single count could not have been negotiated without a threat of jail time.  Becerra is laying the foundation for other prosecutors to show the same abandon in charging other activists.  These cases raise troubling free speech implications.
What do you think?

79 thoughts on “California AG Charges Pro-Life Activists With 15 Felony Counts In Troubling Prosecution

  1. To repeat, a grand jury found enough evidence to go forward on 15 offenses. The prosecutor has the duty to do so.

    • David B. Benson – when a prosecutor has little evidence, they go to the grand jury. It is a poor prosecutor who cannot get a true bill on a ham sandwich.

      • Paul Schulte….
        -Exactly. The idea that a grand jury was clamoring for indictments and that Becerra is simply doing his duty, bending to the will of the grand jury, is laughable.
        It’s the other way around; grand juries almost always do the bidding of prosecutors.
        If this goes to trial and Becerra is the prosecutor, he won’t have a rubber stamp jury.

      • Paul — My understanding is that the prosecutor always first goes to a grand jury.

        And once in a while the grand jury votes no…

        • David B. Benson – it may depend on the state, however in my state when you don’t have a lot of evidence you use the grand jury. It is true that the occasion grand jury goes rogue and brings back a no bill, but they are generally very tame.

    • Was a ham sandwich one of the offences. Anyone who thinks there is justice in the types of cases mentioned above has spent too much time in Washington or Cororado.

  2. As long as California is controlled by Democrats, the only journalists/activists who need to be afraid or conservatives and Republicans. All the others are safe from prosecution. Welcome to the politburo. comrades.

  3. This sort of law requiring two party consent totally encourages lying by officials and other bad actors, and undermines efforts of activists OR journalists from getting at the corruption and exposing the truth to the public.
    There are 11 “two-party consent” states, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. (Notes: (1) Illinois’ two-party consent statute was held unconstitutional in 2014; (2) Hawai’i is in general a one-party state, but requires two-party consent if the recording device is installed in a private place; (3) Massachusetts bans “secret” recordings rather than requiring explicit consent from all parties.).
    It is in those places that prosecutions like the ones in JT’s article can occur, totally chilling the ability of whistleblowers to uncover internal corruption and graft.

    In my opinion any two-party consent law is a violation of the 1st Amendment, as it limits your rights of free association, and free speech, and it likely violates the 14th amendment to due process, where you may need such evidence to proceed properly in a court action.

    I have had this very experience in exposing local county official corruption and violations of civil rights, by one-party consent recording of CPS worker violating my civil rights, fortunately in NY, where it is legal:

  4. Simply filing that as a proposed legislation is a violation of federal law under powers granted under both the 9th and 10th amendments and by California’s signatory acceptance of joining the social contract of the Constiution which forbid such.

    Upon filing it wants only an arrest by Federal Marshals and incarceration awaiting trial in a federal courty. However there lies the problem. That’s 9th Circuit. and that collection of legal misfits would probably overturn making it a Suipreme Court case.

    California however has recall one of the 19 states that do and that can be initiated by the citizens.It well might lose but it would provide a public forum and a poll of sorts. if nothing else. California being a rich state can easily afford ….would have no choice….but to carry through on the actions of the citizens.

  5. “The prosecution could represent a radical shift toward prosecuting activists from environmentalists to animal right activists to pro life/pro choice protesters in their effort to record alleged abuses or violations.”

    It could, but it won’t. Not in California at any rate. California prosecutors are not all viewpoint neutral.

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